Million pound project progressing

Brian Cooper and Jan Shepherd
Brian Cooper and Jan Shepherd

Exciting times are ahead for Kirk Hallam.

The people at the heart of Big Kirk Hallam, a project for residents by residents, have been working hard for the past two years to make sure £1 million of Lottery funding is spent in the best way possible. As they approach the third year, chairman Brian Cooper, 77, and plan co-ordinator Jsan Shepherd, 50, spoke to the ‘Tiser about what projects they have planned for the area.

“It is exciting and frustrating,” said Brian, who will be a familiar face to many people in Kirk Hallam. It was Brian and wife Hazel who fought to prevent the Cat and Fiddle pub from getting a 24-hour licence around 11 years ago. They took it all the way to court, and won.

“When you look back over the three years, it has been ever satisfying the improvements in Kirk Hallam this money has made. We did something called fishy Friday where the older generation go to one of the schools on a Friday to have a meal.

“We also have dadtastic where dads spend time with the children at the community centre. The fathers bond with the children while the wives and partners go shopping.

“The first night we started we had a big chocolate cake with sections written on that people could put flags in to say what they wanted to see in Kirk Hallam. We got all sorts of strange suggestions. There have been a couple of failures, such as a grow and eat community garden where one person turned up, but there have been more positives than failures.

“People will stop you and say we are doing a good job and this makes you put more effort in. One of the first things we did was start a football team, but nine of the 11 players got poached by other teams so it collapsed. Two of the dads were nearly in tears.

“It’s not just 15 kids, it was the dads and grandads who were all involved, almost 100 people.”

There are 22 active projects with big successes including a youth club which sees up to 70 youngsters a week attend. They have also given grants to groups which they continue to support. But the biggest project in the pipeline will be a new skatepark. It is hoped that the wheeled sports area, which is being funded in partnership with Wren and Erewash Borough Council, will be up and running at Windsor Crescent by September. The finished design will have been chosen by youngsters in the area.

“If the kids get involved, at the end of this they will look after it. They are the ones who will have to maintain it,” said Brian.

Jsan continued: “Right at the start of the consultation it was something that was identified, but at the early stages we didn’t want to spend a large amount of money on such a project. It has come at a really good time for us and is something the community really wanted.”

Jsan works on the Big Kirk Hallam project for ten hours a week. In the lead up to Christmas she even took on the role of delivering the group’s magazine to the 2,700 houses in Kirk Hallam when there was nobody else to do it.

She said: “More than 1,000 people have benefitted from Big Kirk Hallam. Our Heart of Well Being saw artists work with elderly and housebound people. It had a small take up but the difference it made to people’s lives was phenomenal. Every Child a Talker was set up because the literacy levels of children in Kirk Hallam are quite low. We are also hoping to do something to mirror the Olympics in the summer.”

The schools in Kirk Hallam also benefit from the money, but the one area they are struggling to address is something for the older teenage girls who don’t want to be seen to be doing things that aren’t ‘cool’.

To find out how to get involved with Big Kirk Hallam, log on to bigkirkhallam.wordpress.com.